Something interesting happened a few years before my father left. My mother, who had long been devout in her spirituality, became an ordained minister and thus a missionary. By the time my father left in 2008, my mother had taken one mission trip to Africa during the holidays. During that trip, the compound where she was residing was assaulted with machine rifles in the middle of the night. Add this to the fact that she was devastated by my father's recent absence, so if there were ever a time to spend the holidays at home then it would have been that winter. To my surprise, these occurrences only strengthened her resolve as she indicated that she was more driven than ever to return to the villages of Africa. I wonder where I derive my drive and stubbornness from? I could have spoken up against her trips but a small part of me was proud of her and honestly how does one argue against God's work? "Umm...hey Big Guy. Fuck those Africans! It's Michael O time!" What was I going to say? I had to be supportive. So if you can imagine, for the past 5 holidays, we have not had our mother or father in the house and this has had an adverse effect. The holidays, the one time of the year where home is supposed to be home, has instead been one big countdown for me. As the oldest of five, the burden of making the holidays festive falls on me. But how can I? How do I "explain" away the long stares of my siblings? How do I look my 5 year old sister in the eye and console her tears, when she realizes that she is not getting any Christmas presents? How do I pretend like everything is OK when I feel as badly as they do? I'd argue that sometimes I feel worse, because each and every one of their solemn faces is burned into my mind, and there is nothing that I can do. If this was your experience, you would dread the holidays as well. So the night before Thanksgiving it had been a few weeks since I had come home. Usually. my mother is around for Thanksgiving but she had to renew a visa for her upcoming trip. This required her to spend a week in New York. I had already stored my motorcycle for the winter, so I had my mother's car keys and was restless to get out of the house.
The problem however was that I had no where to go. Save for Ray, my best friend from high school, I spoke to NO ONE from our high school on a regular basis. I never really fit in at Clarenceville High. So the truth is that I could die in a ditch somewhere and none of them would know. However, I guarantee you that as soon as I make it big then it'll be "Oh fuck Mike, he's changed." My reply, "Umm yea...tax brackets!" However Ray, who was in W. Virginia playing ball, called and told me about a birthday get together at one of the local bars. It was for our mutual friend Mike. Mike is one of the nicest guys that you will ever meet. I once quipped to my younger sister, the 2nd of us five, "How many guys would you let watch your 3 month old infant? I would let Mike do it and not even think about it!" He is that nice of a guy. So despite the fact that he was more Ray's friend than mine, I still wanted to wish him a happy birthday. At Ray's urging, I hopped into my mother's green, Toyota 4Runner and drove off into the rainy night. When I arrived at the bar I was surprised to see hoards of cars parked all around. Apparently, the night before Thanksgiving is a big, "going out" night. Thus, after hunting, I eventually found a parking spot, a few lots from the bar. I exited the car and walked hurriedly to the bar. From the sounds that were emanating into the night, you could tell that the patrons were packed like sardines into the unassuming building. I made my way to the entrance and from the girls that I saw standing outside, this was not where you met "The One." I opened the door, walked inside and the bouncer said, "$15 dollars please." Bitch Please! I'm offended when I have to pay $5 dollars at Rick's. From the looks of things, this was the kind of establishment that even Rick's wouldn't venture into, on the trashiest night. Just then Mike walked out and we began to catch up. In about 10 minutes, I had accomplished the main reason why I was at this bar. I should have left but I had one more person to see. Mike led the way as I walked past the bouncer laughing at him. He SHOULD have known better.
Moments later I was within the bar trying to acquaint myself with people that I had not seen for years. How does a blind man describe a sunset which is entirely foreign to him? This is how I felt as I "caught up" with some of these old classmates. I greeted the ones that I knew and ignored the ones that I did not, including Donnie. He was our star basketball player from high school and though he was done balling, he was still "Too cool for school." That might have bothered me in high school, but fuck him and anyone like that. It's my time. You introduce yourself to me. I just wrestled TWO gorillas in a phone booth! Who needs a new hat? I digress. Almost out of a movie, I interacted with everyone else that I could until she was remaining. I looked ahead at the table and there she was, willing me over in a skin tight, red dress, with black leggings, and knee high black boots. I took a moment to take in her in, her jet black hair, her bright doe eyes, her inviting smile, and her curvy figure. She was smiling at me now, and when she did this widely enough, a sort of double chin appeared, but it was cute.
Her name was Amanda and honestly I did not know her well in high school. The "story" on her was that though she was a cute cheerleader, she was a waste of time. She had this on again, off again, older boyfriend, who was her first love. There was no point pursuing her. One late night as I was about to log off from Facebook, when she sent me a message. I didn't think anything of it so I responded in my charming, sarcastic way. I logged off and was working on something online when I received the alert that she had sent me another message. Before I knew it, we were in an hour long relay, sending messages back and forth on Facebook; and then it dawned on me. "I have a degree. If someone wants to OBVIOUSLY talk to you, then you two should exchange phone numbers and not spend an hour on Facebook." I told her this and we exchanged numbers. However, why did she want to talk to me? I thought she was married? Apparently, so did she. Her husband, the "first love", had cheated on her in the army, got kicked out for knocking up a fellow officer, and then proceeded to move out of her parent's house, with the other woman. This is how our first conversation began. She explained that she was going through a tough time, and had to reconcile with getting a divorce. At the time, I still did not think that anything was going to happen between us, I was simply bored at home, and hell, I could gain some great material for my book, "Galfing: A Young Man's Guide." So we had this long conversation at 3 in the morning, and she vented at how she could not believe that he could hurt her so. Over the years, her husband was the guy that she had left every other guy for. NO ONE measured up. Her world was literally upside down, as she was one of those girls where he was like the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars. So for him to do what he did, with an uglier girl at that, especially when her and him had failed at conceiving their own child, was like an enormous, cosmic explosion.
From my perspective, this guy was a DOG! It was obvious from the first conversation that this was NOT his first time cheating on her. Before he got kicked out from the army, his base was over in Japan and so Amanda and him would video message over Skype. So she told me a story about how one night, she is talking with him and the other chick walks by behind him in her underwear. This would have been alright if she was on a runway. However, she was in the private room of a married man, and last I checked, the army does not endorse co-habitation. I was shocked that stories like these did not tip her off. I had this certain friend from undergrad whose name is Marquan. Anyone that knows 'Quan is aware that when he's around, hilarity ensues. One of his favorite sayings was, "If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck. Usually it's a motherfucking duck!" I could not help but remember this saying when I was listening to Amanda. Even when telling me such stories, the tone of her voice, indicated that she was at a loss. The way she would talk, it was like her husband was absent of fault, as if to say, "I don't know what happened. He just woke up and went mad!" On my end of the phone, I could have laughed at her for being so daft, but she was in obvious pain. From the much that I could gather about her, she was a sweetheart who did not deserve what was happening to her. Since high school, her father and her, had been at each others throats for her relationship with this asshole. At the time, it was mostly because he was black. She loved him so much that she was willing to disown her own family. Plus, one of her major retorts for her father was, how could her father want her to end up with some "white banker" who was going to cheat on her? Irony is a bitch and she's proud of it. So I would politely offer advice and suggest that maybe he was not this "Prince Charming" that she assumed him to be. In the beginning, I took myself out of the equation and was truly trying to see things through her eyes. I told her that she had to figure out what was best for her. If moving on was best then she should do it. If taking some time apart was best then she should do it. However, if getting back together with that man was best for her, then she should do it because her father, mother, sisters, and brothers did not stand on that alter and say "I do." She did.
She had lived for too long for this guy and it was time to live for herself. It was time to find out who Amanda really was. This is what I told her and surprisingly, she did not like it. I guess she had expected me to wag my fingers in the air, make a fit, and say, "Oh no he didn't girlfriend! Fuck that guy, He betta get the steppin'. You too good for him anyways!" However, I quickly saw in that first conversation that this was part of her problem. She was too busy listening to everything that did not matter, and ignoring the only thing that did, her heart. When that conversation ended, I never expected to hear from her again, but then she invited me out to the bar for Mike's birthday celebration. The next time I talked to Ray, I remember telling him how weird I felt about meeting a married woman. From his perspective, he knew that being at home was suffocating me. He chided me to get out for a change and so I did. So there I was standing in front of her table, with her smiling invitedly at me. The planes had flown over. The national anthem had been sung. The coaches had given their pre-game speeches, and the referee had blown the whistle. All that was left was for me to walk up to her. So I let out a sigh and walked forward...